A Backpacker’s Realistic Visit to Islas del Rosario, Cartagena

Last Updated on April 27, 2024 by Kylie

If you’re looking for white sand and warm water, a day trip to Islas del Rosario is ideal in Cartagena. As you wander through the walled city (La Heroíca), you’ll find dozens of tours enticing you with a boat ride out to the islands.

We debated between staying overnight or making a day trip to Islas Del Rosario. Ultimately, we went with a day trip due to time, and even though we lowkey got scammed, I still thought it was the best option for us.

Visiting Islas del Rosario in Cartagena, Colombia

CONSIDER THESE (tour: Eco Hotel Luxury)

After watching videos presented by a travel agent, we went with Eco Hotel Luxury.

BEFORE BOOKING – if you do a quick Google search, you’ll see they have amazing ratings on Google, but not TripAdvisor, and here’s why. On the island, if you show the bar a 5-star Google rating, you’ll get a free drink. But is it worth those 5 stars?

Naturally, we didn’t believe everything we were promised by the travel agent, but we remained hopeful. Even with empty promises throughout, I tried to make the most of our day trip & keep a positive attitude since it was our only time on the island.

Visiting Islas del Rosario in Cartagena, Colombia

We arrived at the dock at 7:30 AM sharp and were told the boat leaves on time … at 8:30 AM that is.

Here’s what we were promised

  • All-inclusive drinks
  • Snorkeling and stand-up paddle boarding
  • No ID’s required
  • Lunch

And here’s what we got

  • All-inclusive (watered down) limonada de coco’s (all other drinks had to be paid for)
  • Free snorkeling along the shore (snorkeling in a better spot was an additional fee)
  • No stand-up paddle boarding
  • ID’s required to borrow snorkel gear
  • A delicious lunch!

Islas del Rosario | Eco-Hotel Luxury Pros:

  • You’re spending an entire day on the beach (with lounge chairs & umbrellas) from 10 AM to 3 PM
  • It’s not a long (or that bumpy of a) boat ride – approximately 45 minutes each way
  • Depending on your tour, you can have a party vibe or just chill on the beach
  • A solid lunch was included

Eco-Hotel Luxury Cons:

  • These day trips can be a bit pricey (around $70 USD was the cheapest we found)
  • A lot of promised inclusions ended up being add-ons (ex. snorkeling, cocktails, etc.)
  • We were told we didn’t need IDs but ended up needing them to borrow snorkel gear
  • Depending on who you book with, they may tell you the wrong departure time

Come to find out from a few angry guests on board, some agents promote Luxury as an entire day experience from 8 AM to 4 PM. However, boat rides to and from the island were included in this quoted time. So while yes, you essentially have the entire day, you’re cut 2-3 hours due to travel. Not a huge deal, but a very understandable letdown for someone anticipating a long afternoon under the sun.

So what would an overnight trip look like?

Secreto Hostel is a popular choice for solo travelers wanting to spend a few days on the island! Unlike typical dorms, the cost is a bit more since well … you’re on Islas del Rosario and not in the middle of a city.

Another option further south of Islas del Rosario is Casa en el Agua (Isla Tintipán). Here, you can spend a few days completely disconnected from society – literally, there’s no Wi-Fi.

Overall, we stayed positive but … were a bit let down

Visiting Islas del Rosario in Cartagena, Colombia

We were pretty disappointed finding out most of those promised inclusions were actually add-ons, but regardless, we made the most of our beach day!

With this in mind, would you still do a day trip or opt for an overnight stay? Save this for your backpacking trip to Colombia!

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